Tatiana Suarez is nearing her Octagon return after neck issues have sidelined her since June 2019.
The former UFC strawweight contender told ESPN that she has been medically cleared and is targeting a 125-pound debut for her next promotional appearance. A bulging disc in her neck has plagued the former Olympic hopeful after a victory over Nina Ansaroff at UFC 238.
Suarez’s return might have arrived sooner, as she was cleared for training in February but she suffered a broken right hand in wrestling practice and a concussion in a separate instance while wrestling with her boyfriend. She plans on beginning her training camp “soon,” with September as a possibility for her next fight.
"I'm super excited to get back out there," she said. "It's fun to practice, for sure. But it's just different competing. Everybody knows that. It's super exciting to just show what you're working on.”
The 30-year-old Suarez won Season 23 of “The Ultimate Fighter” and kicked off her promotional tenure with five consecutive triumphs, including wins over former 115-pound champion Carla Esparza, and contenders Ansaroff and Alexa Grasso.
Although Suarez was a title hopeful at strawweight, she will transition to 125 pounds for her next UFC bout. However, she added that she won’t “abandon” 115 pounds. For now, flyweight will be on a trial basis.
“I was thinking I was gonna try out flyweight and see how I feel there,” she said. “All the fights I’ve had at strawweight, during the fight I felt weak and tired. I was wondering if maybe just the weight cut was too draining for me. I’ve never had an issue making weight, it was just the day after I felt like I wasn’t fully recovered.
“I definitely feel way stronger and more explosive when I practice than when I fight, so I was like, maybe I need to try something where I don’t cut very much weight at all. I was walking around at 130, now I’m walking around at 135. Yeah, I’ll have to fight people that are 145 going into the fight, but I don’t really care about that.”
That move also means Suarez must get through one of the sport’s most dominant champions in Valentina Shevchenko if she is to reach the top of her new weight class.
"I do think I have a good skill set in terms of my wrestling [that] can give her trouble," Suarez said.
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